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  • Writer's pictureScott Rotella

From disgust to passion: My journey with brussels sprouts

Roasted brussels sprouts
Roasted brussels sprouts with balsamic glaze and shaved parmigiano!

When I was a kid, we ate fairly basic vegetables. We rarely had things like asparagus and never had brussels sprouts. I had the “opportunity” to eat brussels sprouts once when I was young. I thought, “Why not. They look like little cabbages and I like cabbage.” Well, I believe they were frozen and steamed with a little butter, salt and pepper. I was disgusted by the taste and vowed to never eat them again.

More than 30 years later, I saw a cooking show where they prepared brussels sprouts and everyone on the show raved about how good they were. With complete skepticism, I decided that I should give them another chance. So I began experimenting and somewhere along the line, I became an addict to the point that they were on the table more than once a week in one variation or another. I even started serving them as appetizers. Crazy, right?

I don’t serve them as often anymore, but I still love them. Why? They are healthy and tasty. Today, I will share some of the things I have learned about why they are good for you and some details on what I have learned to make them taste fantastic.

What I also learned is that there are many folks who share my previous dislike of these micro cabbages. When I served them at dinner parties, I saw some guests not eat any. But then others would try and ask about the recipe and techniques. This often led to those with sprout phobia trying them and seeing them adopt a new vegetable in their life. Ahhh, my mission as a brussels sprout ambassador has just begun!

What are the health benefits?

All vegetables are healthy. Some have higher levels of nutrition. Brussel sprouts are up there on the list of the most nutritious vegetables. They are a cruciferous vegetable, like cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. They are also a good source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and have been linked to a number of health benefits, including:

  • Reduced risk of cancer: Brussels sprouts contain compounds that can help to protect against cancer, including glucosinolates and sulforaphane. Glucosinolates are converted into sulforaphane when Brussels sprouts are chewed or chopped. Sulforaphane has been shown to have anti-cancer properties in laboratory and animal studies.

  • Improved heart health: Brussels sprouts are a good source of fiber, potassium, and vitamin K, which are all beneficial for heart health. Fiber can help to lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure, potassium can help to regulate blood pressure, and vitamin K is important for blood clotting and bone health.

  • Better blood sugar control: Brussels sprouts are a low-glycemic food, meaning that they do not cause a rapid spike in blood sugar levels after eating. This makes them a good choice for people with diabetes or prediabetes.

  • Improved gut health: Brussels sprouts are a good source of fiber, which is important for gut health. Fiber helps to keep the digestive system healthy and regular, and it also feeds the beneficial bacteria in the gut.

In addition to these health benefits, Brussels sprouts are also a good source of vitamins A, C, and B6, as well as folate, iron, and magnesium. Who doesn’t want to fuel their body with tasty little globes of nutritious food?

What I learned about the taste profile…

Brussels sprouts have a slightly earthy and bitter flavor, which some people may find intense. However, the flavor of Brussels sprouts can vary depending on how they are prepared. Roasting or sauteing brussels sprouts brings out their natural sweetness and creates a slightly nutty flavor. Boiling or steaming brussels sprouts can make them taste more bitter.

Overall, the flavor of brussels sprouts is complex and can be described as a combination of earthy, bitter, sweet, and nutty.

I have found that there are four things that bring out the best flavor of spouts. Charring them, adding acid to them, adding salt to them and adding sweet to them.

  • Charring: There are a few ways to get a good cook with char on your brussels sprouts. You can roast them on a sheet tray in an oven, you can char them in a pan or skillet or you can grill them (think skewers).

  • Acid: This is primarily via vinegars or citrus, such as lemon, lime or grapefruit

  • Sweet: Try honey, agave, pure maple syrup or even a balsamic reduction (that is your sweet and acid)

  • Salt: I typically use Diamond Crystal salt when cooking.

Vinaigrettes are a great way to finish brussels sprouts as they typically contain the sweet, salt and acid.


In all instances, I wash the brussels sprouts, pull off any loose petals (I recently learned that brussels sprouts are actually the flower of the plant) and then I trim the stem to expose a fresh end and then cut them in half from top to stem. I generally use about one pound of brussels sprouts for any of these preparations. But you can certainly scale to how much you need.


To roast your brussels sprouts, place them on a baking sheet. I like to line mine with parchment paper to ease cleanup. Drizzle some olive oil on the sprouts and sprinkle with granulated garlic, salt and pepper. Mix them to get them well coated and place them cut side down.

Roast in the oven at about 425F for about 25-30 minutes or until you can see the edges getting browned with some specs of black. Finish with your choice of sweet and acid.


This is my favorite technique that I learned from an episode of America’s Test Kitchen. It is simple and very fast. Use a frying pan that has high sides and a lid. Cover the bottom of the pan with olive oil (about ¼ cup) and arrange the brussels sprouts in the cold pan, cut side down. Sprinkle it with salt, pepper and granulated garlic. Place the lid on the pan and cook on medium high heat for about 5 minutes. This will start a char on the cut side and will cook the sprouts with a little steam and convection. If you do not see char, then cook a little longer. After five minutes, remove the lid and reduce the heat to medium. They should be done in an additional five minutes. Finish with your choice of sweet and acid.


Place your cut brussels on a skewer with the cut side facing one direction (not the boy band). Insert the skewer through the root end to the top. If using wooden skewers, make sure to pre-soak them in water. Cover them with olive oil, granulated garlic and salt and pepper. Place on a preheated grill over medium heat. Lower the cover to provide some additional heat to the tops of the sprouts and cook for 20-30 minutes. You can test if they are done using a tip of a knife as it should pierce the top of the sprout easily. Finish with your choice of sweet and acid.

Note: Never use fresh garlic with these cooking techniques as it will burn and taste bitter.

Finishing your brussels sprouts

Remember to include acid and sweet.

Balsamic glaze and horseradish

This is my absolute favorite. While the brussels are sauteing, mix 1⁄4 cup of mayonnaise with 2 tablespoons of prepared horseradish. The mayo is really just a carrier to get a light coat of horseradish on the brussels sprouts. The horseradish flavor is very minimal but adds extreme interest to the flavor. Take the brussels sprouts off the heat and stir in the horsey sauce you just made. Place in your serving dish and drizzle with balsamic glaze and finish with some freshly grated or shaved parmigiano reggiano. This is the preparation I often make available as an appetizer for pizza parties. You can serve with picks or have small plates and forks available. People gobble them up.

Lemon Vinaigrette

Make this vinaigrette ahead of time and drizzle this on the brussels sprouts when they come off the heat. The extreme lemon flavor pairs really well with roasted vegetables, especially brussels sprouts. I use avocado oil here for a few reasons. Olive oil has a bitter side and not really what you want with the already somewhat bitter brussels sprouts. Plus the strong flavor of olive oil masks the delicate flavor of the lemon.

If you are not a fan of brussels sprouts, give one of these preparations a try… you will not be disappointed. Or use this as a guide to create your own. Sometimes I will use bacon grease in the pan to cook them and finish with balsamic glaze and some nice bacon crumbles. Yum! I would recommend starting with the sauteed method.

If you are a fan, I hope some of these techniques and recipes will add to your sprout game.

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